Adjunct faculty at SCC often get paid half as much as full-time faculty, but the two groups are teaming up to decrease the inequity.
Pink buttons recently popped up across campus as SCC shone a spotlight on the discrepancies between full- time and adjuncts in higher education.
Campus Equity Week was Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Across campus both adjunct (or associate) and full-time faculty wore pink buttons that said “Ask me about adjuncts.” There was also a booth in the PUB. The campaign was designed to explain to students who adjuncts are and the differences between them and full-time faculty.
According to an Equity Week flyer, adjuncts make up about 70 percent of Washington State community college faculty. Their job is to basically teach a certain number of credits and provide office hours to students, but many adjuncts at SCC go beyond the expected responsibilities and put in a much effort and time as full time faculty.
A two-tier system has been created between full-time and adjunct faculty, where adjunct salaries are much lower than full-time, to the point that they hardly cover basic living expenses for some, if not all, of the adjuncts at community colleges.
There are many disadvantages to being an adjunct instructor and one of the biggest is the absence of job security. Not being able to know when classes might be canceled can be a worry for adjuncts because they have a quarter-to-quarter contract and if their classes were to be canceled, even right before the quarter begins, they’d have no compensation, according to Laurel Ecke, an adjunct psychology faculty member.
This can result in job loss until a position to teach another class opened for the next quarter, and an adjunct would have no choice but to wait. This in turn can lead them to file for unemployment benefits and food stamps to compensate.
While some faculty choose to be adjuncts for the flexibility in their personal schedules and other reasons, for the majority of adjuncts it’s not a matter of choice.
Ecke said some adjuncts stay as adjuncts for up to decades due to the nation- wide system of filling full-time positions. When a full-time position opens, and rarely does that happen these days, faculty from all over the country can apply. Whether someone is just out of
graduate school or has been an adjunct for many years, all applications are received by the college.
With shrinking budgets and decreases in state funding for higher education, more and more adjuncts are being hired to replace full-time positions because adjuncts are cheaper.
As full-time positions became more and more rare in community colleges, the hiring of adjuncts grew by 43.8 percent between 1969 and 2009.
Torrey Stenmark, an adjunct chemistry instructor at SCC, said “teaching was my choice” but feels that she does the work of a full-time faculty member without the benefits or job security.
It’s considered impossible these days for an adjunct to have financial stability, so most adjuncts commute between community colleges. In some schools, adjuncts may not be allowed to teach more than 10 credits per quarter, and because of this, they may commute between four or five schools to teach enough classes to financially support themselves.
Additionally, while full-time faculty have their own offices, adjuncts at SCC have to share not only offices, but desks and computers with three or more other adjuncts. According to Ecke, not having the physical space and personal space at their work can be difficult, due to the lack of privacy. Some adjuncts have to use other spaces such as the library to meet with students because of the lack of space and privacy.
Despite all the downsides of being an adjunct, instructors stay in their jobs because they love teaching and are dedicated to their students.
“It’s hard to treat education like a business because you’re not getting an immediate turn around on investment,” said Ecke. But the real, long- term investment, she says, is the future success of the students.
Full-time faculty members usually teach at one location for 15 or more credits per quarter. They have job security because once a faculty member becomes tenured the position becomes guaranteed.
The process of getting tenure as a full-time faculty member is another difference from the adjunct experience. Once a tenure application has been accepted full-time faculty are observed intensively for three years, and given feedback and critiques. This process helps full-time faculty to become better teachers, and while adjuncts do receive feedback every five years or so, they do not receive as much. This not only affects the faculty, but also students, due to the fact that the instructor may not know how to correct or improve on some weaknesses.
Full-time faculty are also affected by the rise in the number of adjuncts, as they are called to serve on various committees for the administration far more often than if there were more full-time faculty to spread the burden.
When the state decreases funds for higher education, community colleges receive fewer funds and schools automatically increase the tuition rate. From 2008 to 2016, school tuition in Washington State increased by 50 percent.
Adjuncts are also usually less available, and students have a harder time finding their faculty on campus since they may need to commute to other schools.
What can students do to be change the system and be advocates for more equitable treatment of faculty? Education and awareness is the first step. Gain awareness of this issue by talking to faculty, your instructors may be adjuncts themselves. Next time an event like Equity Week comes, stop by to look at the posters. See the reason why adjuncts and full-time faculty alike are pushing for progress on this matter. Students can contact their state legislators anytime and show support for this subject.
As enrollment varies from quarter to quarter, having adjunct positions is realistic and beneficial to the school, but it has gotten to the point where the system is being abused and the gulf within the two-tiered system is only becoming greater.
By JERRY CHOI, Staff Reporter
Photo by JERRY CHOI
Photo: A group of SCC Adjusts and full time instructors.
Instructors uniting together to bring awareness regarding the lack of equity between adjuncts and full-time faculty.